A proposed zoning category being introduced by the City of White Rock for two properties on Marine Drive is leading to fears the city is aiming to create a precedent for higher buildings and greater density along the West Beach waterfront.
Victoria Avenue resident Malik Dillon – a member of “a group of concerned citizens” who circulated a flyer early this week criticizing the new CR-3A zone – said they will be watching closely when the city holds an online public information meeting on Wednesday (July 8).
The meeting will introduce the rezoning of 15081 Marine Dr. (currently the Little India Restaurant) and 14945 Marine Dr. (currently Cilantro Indian Cuisine) to a new ‘West Beach Business Area Commercial/Residential Small Lot Zone (CR-3A)’.
“They say this is only for two properties, but if it’s only for two, they could do a Comprehensive Development zoning,” Dillon told Peace Arch News.
“If there is a new zone, it allows other companies to fall in line and request it for their properties,” he added.
“Very rarely do you see a new zoning going into the books for a couple of properties.”
In the flyer – which Dillon said has been receiving “overwhelming support” from residents – it is suggested there may be at least a dozen properties along the strip that could be eligible for the zoning category.
Among concerns held by residents of the area is that the current OCP also describes a four-storey maximum for buildings along the waterfront, although, Dillon said, the majority at present are three storeys and under.
But an email Tuesday from city communications manager Donna Kell disputes several of the conclusions of the flyer.
“The flyer states that the CR-3A zoning would apply to 12 properties,” she wrote.
“It would only apply to two… any other properties that would seek to be rezoned to the CR-3A zone (if it is approved) would require a separate zoning amendment bylaw.”
She also noted that there are several existing buildings in the West Beach area that are four storeys or above (though not necessarily in the CR-3 zone), although the flyer states there are none.
“These four-storey buildings are generally east of the commercial areas and include the Top of the Rock at 15097 Marine Drive, the Semiahmoo Shores at 15165 Marine Drive, and several others west of Johnston Road,” she wrote.
“There is also the Sausalito building at 14955 Victoria Drive, which is zoned CR-3.”
In an emailed response to a question from a resident about the online meeting format – forwarded to PAN by Kell – planning and development services director Carl Isaak noted that when the city initiates a zoning bylaw amendment it is not “obligated to conduct public information meetings (as private property applicants are).”
“However, we also do these PIMs to provide an additional opportunity to engage with the public and receive feedback prior to a public hearing,” he wrote, while explaining that the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated moving the meetings online.
Dillon said his group welcomes the opportunity for input.
“We appreciate that the city is doing this and doesn’t have to,” he said. “But we feel it shouldn’t ever have gotten as far as the information meeting stage.”
He said the group was surprised that the new zoning was created after applications to rezone the two properties first came to council in October of last year.
Of major concern, Dillon said, is the OCP designation allowing four storeys on Marine Drive – which he notes the current council did not establish.
“Nobody seems to understand how important it is to get rid of the ‘four-storeys’,” he said, noting the new zoning would increase the allowable maximum from 11.3 m (37.1 feet) to 13.7 m (44.9 feet).
The designation is of particular concern, he said, because the current zoning bylaw still allows building height to be measured from a historic pre-development “natural grade” of hillside property, as opposed to the existing ‘curb level’.
“It allows the height to be measured from something you can’t even see,” he said, adding this provision will only intensify the actual height impact of new development on the waterfront.
The proposed zoning would also allow increased building density in the area, he said, following a Lower Mainland-wide trend.
“The Greater Vancouver region has fallen into the trap of density,” he added. “Density creates more population, but it doesn’t necessarily achieve affordability.”
Dillon said his group is not against redevelopment of the waterfront, per se.
“We’re well aware of the economics and how some restaurants are not surviving,” he said.
At the same time, he noted, “a number of restaurants have been surviving – until an increase in rents.
“Property owners can then go to council and claim they need to redevelop because they can’t get tenants.”
The July 8 meeting will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., and, to participate, residents will have to sign up for Microsoft Teams access (www.microsoft.com/en-ca/microsoft-365/microsoft-teams/group-chat-software).
Once the program is installed, potential participants must email planning manager Greg Newman (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the subject line CR-3A Public Information meeting.